The Prodigal Son crew set the bar high from the moment the show aired, and somehow they keep getting better every week! The writing, the acting, and the camera work all combine perfectly week after week to bring us one of the best shows Fox produces. If you need a refresher on what happened previously, you can check out the episode 11 recap here, otherwise sit back and relax as we take a rundown of episode 12! This episode features a lot of short flashbacks but we’ll try to keep this as smooth as possible.
Last night: “I brought you onto the team because you’re the best at what you do, Bright, but not when you get like this.” The camera pans from Dani to Bright, as he points a finger at Gil. “I’m like this because of you!” Uh-oh. “Get the hell out of my precinct.” Bright stands from his chair as Gil slams the door to his office, first looking right then straight ahead, before running into the room we’ve seen the team gather in many times. Dani is hot on his heels but not fast enough. The door is locked behind Bright as he fires up an electroconvulsive therapy unit, holding the stimulating electrodes in his hands. We cut to Dani, just outside, as the precinct goes dark.
12 hours later (present day): Bright enters the precinct and makes tense eye contact with JT. Bright looks past his colleague, into the room he’s just vacated, to see a man — presumably a psychiatrist — writing some notes. Bright walks into Gil’s office, continuing to watch the man in the room as Gil straightens his [Bright’s] tie. What happened to the conflict between these two?
After a brief conversation with Gil, and one that has a whole new meaning come the end of the episode, Bright walks into the other room and introduces himself to Dr. Simon Coppenrath, a “police psychiatrist.” Simon walks Bright through the reason for his visit, wanting to focus specifically on the incident from the previous night. Gil had informed Bright that he, Dani and JT had each discussed the incident already with Simon, and we, through another flashback, get to see a bit of those discussions. Dani admits she has no idea how to describe what happened, JT called it “insane,” and Bright, of course, downplayed both the incident and the injuries incurred during his imprisonment. He even says Gil was thrilled to have him back so soon, but the flashback that followed proved otherwise: “What you need is a leave of absence … Watkins tortured you.” “And I emerged unscathed! Well, scathed. Moderately scathed.” Point one, Bright’s humor. “Rest, recuperate. That’s an order.”
We stick with Dani’s interview as she walks us through Jessica’s failed attempt to get her son to rest, let it be known not even a German judo Olympian can keep him in one place when he knows a murder has occurred. He makes his way to the crime scene after over hearing Dani’s phone call and the team (minus Edirsa because she’s always happy to see him) realizes telling him to go home is a losing battle. We quickly jump back to Bright’s interview with Simon and find him making a connection between the two of them; Bright compares his need to get in the mind of killers to Simon’s need to get in the mind of his patients. We then jump right back to the crime scene, a cemetery, and learn the victim is a male, mid-20s with wounds that contradict, according to our genius. The bruising around the neck indicates strangulation (a likely unplanned kill), while the 2nd-degree burn marks indicate torture. As the team begins to walk away from the body, we hear what sounds to be whispers, causing Bright to turn towards another set of graves and as he approaches one, we see a deceased young Bright lying in the open grave — “He tried to kill us.”
We return to the present as Simon says, rub your belly and pat your head … just kidding. “You’re an expert in psychology, Malcolm. You understand what I’m looking for.” “Intractable symptoms of PTSD. Flashbacks, panic attacks, recurrent hallucinations.” So, basically if what he’s looking for had a face, it would be Malcolm Bright’s. According to both Dani and Gil’s interview, they noticed something had happened to Bright, although they don’t know exactly what it was. Gil once again ordered him to go home, but to no one’s surprise, he showed up at the autopsy (did you really think Edrisa wouldn’t tell him?) Our victim is 21-year old Tristan Johnston, he has a history of misdemeanor shoplifting. He had gone missing about a year prior and his injuries indicated he had been beaten severely before his death, but the burn marks on his temples are older. When he went missing, he took one of his father’s credit cards and made a transfer of $5,000 to the Vosler Institute, an organization on the FBI’s cult index. When Gil, Dani and JT believed Bright had gone home, they paid a visit to the Manhattan chapter where Mr. Vosler was doing a small seminar. As could be expected, Vosler was unwilling to provide much help, but Bright had other plans. Rather than stick to the beaten path with the team, our dear boy put himself in yet another compromising position — he joined the cult.
He stated the entrance exam was nothing more than a slightly altered Myers-Briggs, easy to beat, and found himself face-to-face with Vosler, moments away from his first ECT session (Did you hear that? That was the sound of a collective sigh from the Prodigies). Just before the session began, young Bright appears in the corner of the room, whispering, “He tried to kill us.” This scene cements a few facts for us: 1) The burn marks on the victims temples meant he had undergone ECT. 2) He was a recent member at the Vosler institute, despite Vosler refusing to give any info on him.
All too quickly, we hear the ECT machine fire up and see the electrodes placed to Bright’s temples. As he convulses, images of his younger self and his father flash our across our screens until all suddenly goes black. We return to Bright’s interview with Simon, where the psychiatrist is visibly angry, and this reaction is not one that anyone expected to see. It’s not common for a professional in their own environment to become almost irrationally upset by something said, especially when that professional is a psychiatrist. Bright begins to explain that he wasn’t vulnerable when he allowed himself to be shocked, he was simply thinking about the victims, in this case he was thinking about Andi.
We bounce back to see Bright waking up and finding a woman, Andi, sitting a few feet from him. Andi is the woman we saw sign him up for the Vosler program, and she reveals she has been through the treatment 18 times herself. Bright, picking up on her timid demeanor, begins to pry for answers regarding the program and the deceased victims. It’s clear Andi doesn’t feel safe and Bright offers her an escape, packing up the ECT machine to take as evidence before sneaking out of the building with his new friend. Once outside, Bright calls Gil and as he explains the situation we hear tires squeal and see Andi pulled inside a van before it speeds off. Before long, Vosler makes an appearance at the precinct, stating he had nothing to do with Andi’s disappearance and pointing a finger at individuals known as deprogrammers. Deprogrammers are people who, through questionable methods, “save” cult members, often at the request and monetary expense of a family member.
We once again bounce back to present day as Bright too becomes upset regarding Vosler’s actions. Simon believed Bright had become obsessed with finding Andi and that obsession was controlling his actions. This statement caused Bright to snap: “What do you really know about trauma, Simon?” His answer was heart-wrenching. He and his daughter, Lily, had rented a cottage at the beach, the perfect vacation for a girl who loved to swim. That perfect vacation would mean the end of his daughter’s life when the car they were travelling in flipped, killing her on impact. Simon’s trauma came from realizing this tragic incident wasn’t a blameless one, he had looked away from the road, just for a moment, to find a better station to listen to on the radio and it cost his daughter her life. When Simon attempts to put the conversational spotlight back on Bright, he in turn puts it back on the case.
How were they going to find out who the deprogrammer was? Easy, get the wealthiest person they know to reach out to every deprogrammer available. Bright sat in on the interviews with his mother, narrowing down the pool of people to one, Curtis Marsh. The team immediately brought the man in and began questioning him. At one point early on in the process, Marsh slams his hand down on the table before attempting to collect himself and swallow the remaining pills in his prescription bottle and throwing the empty container into the trash. As far as Gil was concerned, they had their man dead to rights but Bright “wasn’t satisfied,” he believed Marsh was working for someone else, presumably someone other than the family of Andi. Her father, a wealthy man from Barcelona, wanted to get his daughter out of the cult and was more than willing to pay for it. Marsh wanted his paycheck but couldn’t get to Andi so he went after the next best thing, the man who recruited her into the cult, Tristan. Here’s where Gil and Bright disagreed: Gil believed Marsh was working alone, and after getting the information he needed from Tristan, had delivered Andi to her father. Bright, on the other hand, believed Marsh was working for someone else and had not been delivered to her father, meaning the case shouldn’t be closed. This caused an argument between he and Gil and ultimately lead to the incident.
Gil: “I brought you onto the team because you’re the best at what you do, Bright, but not when you get like this.”
Bright: “I’m ‘like this’ because of Martin Whitly, because of John Watkins, because of you!”
Bright: You asked for my help. You knew I couldn’t say no, and you brought them all back into my life. You did that. You started this!”
Gil: “Get the hell out of my precinct.”
We’re back where the episode started and can finally see why Bright looked to his right then straight ahead; he could see his younger self standing in five different locations around the precinct, causing him to run into the interview room where the ETC machine, the only thing that had been able to temporarily stop the hallucinations, was sitting. Despite a slightly more detailed flashback, we still don’t see exactly what happens in the room to cause the power to go out, but back in present day, Bright does finally admit to the hallucinations and what John Watkins had informed him. The admittance of hallucinations lead to Simon completing his profile of Bright, he was mentally unstable and could no longer work with the NYPD.
Before Simon can walk out of the room, Bright raises the question we were waiting for — what to do about Andi. “Well, I’m sure Lieutenant Arroyo and his team will find her.” “Her? I never said Andi was a woman.” Bright has just completed his profile. You see, what actually happened last night was just before he put the electrodes to his temples, he remembered Marsh had thrown the empty pill bottle into the trash. Who prescribed that medication? The same man that stated he had never met Marsh, the man standing in front of Bright: Dr. Simon Coppenwrath. The doctor had inserted himself into the investigation in an attempt to discredit Bright with internal affairs but the team was too smart for that, the room was wired. With his suspicions confirmed, all that was left to do was find Andi’s location and there was only one place important to Simon: the cottage he mentioned when telling the story of his daughter.
The episode ends in Bright’s apartment with Gil telling him not to come around the precinct for two weeks, to work on learning to slow down. “Hey, Gil. I was wrong. It’s not because of you. I’m sorry.” We desperately needed that apology to happen, that argument broke our hearts.
Prodigal Son airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on Fox and is available to stream on Hulu.